Too good to ignore

Jaque Fourie and Frans Steyn must go to the World Cup, writes MARK KEOHANE in SA Rugby magazine.

Frans Steyn is reportedly loving his rugby again, 10kg lighter and playing exclusively at flyhalf. He has reportedly also expressed a desire, through his agent, to challenge for the Springboks’ 2015 World Cup squad.

Steyn won the 2007 World Cup in France as a 20-year-old and was outstanding in the 2011 World Cup before injury ended his tournament.

Steyn, 10kg lighter, or Steyn as he was in last season’s Super Rugby campaign, is a player who adds value to any squad.

His relationship with Springbok coaches Peter de Villiers and Heyneke Meyer is complex and who knows the complexities within a young man who scaled rugby’s Everest before his 21st birthday.

Invest in him for the World Cup. Show him the love he needs. Some players respond to dictatorship and others need more cuddling and positive reinforcement.

Steyn, from this distance, appears to be a man who wants to know he is appreciated and who wants to know he is valuable to the team he represents.

He has always flourished when given the responsibility to win games, but also given the comfort that he has presence and significance.

Meyer has never disputed Steyn’s ability, or how his presence improves the balance of any match 23, but he clearly hasn’t been as accommodating of the subtleties that allow Steyn to mentally be in shape to perform at his peak.

De Villiers had similar issues with Steyn and a year before the 2011 World Cup the two were still doing their talking through agents in the media. Common sense triumphed when the two sat, spoke from the heart, looked each other in the eye and committed to the
World Cup campaign. Steyn played his part. He gave everything for the jersey. It won’t be any different this time.

Steyn’s national shares would not have been good a day before the Cardiff Test against Wales. But Jean de Villiers’s knee injury – a nasty dislocation that could well see him miss most of 2015 – meant Steyn’s shares soared.

It helped that he was playing a starring role for his club. It helped that he had trimmed down and it certainly helped that his message to South African rugby was that he would be playing Super Rugby in 2015 with the aim of winning a Springbok recall.

Meyer is strong in his convictions and his team culture. He must be equally strong in managing the precocious talent of Steyn.

Meyer must also not give up on Jaque Fourie, who announced his international retirement in the week of the Cardiff Test. Fourie is young enough and good enough to play for the Springboks. If he lacks desire, then he must be allowed to play out his career in Japan.

Fourie, though, has never lacked passion for the Bok jersey and his midfield experience can’t be matched in South Africa. Only De Villiers can claim greater Test match exposure and we don’t know if he will ever again be back in a Bok jersey.

The public don’t have sympathy for players who seek greater financial incentive abroad. Neither do many who report on the game.

I’ve never understood punishing a player whose talent commands the highest salary abroad. No professional player abroad is a traitor. The game is professional and the weak rand cannot compete with the Japanese yen or the euro. The cash is not available within South Africa to match offers from abroad.

Meyer has always trumpeted picking the best South African players for the World Cup and he has continually fought with the administration around every foreign-based selection.

The Springboks’ defeat to Wales showed how important the best foreign-based players are to a winning cause, especially in a World Cup.

Fourie, even if he is a special case, must be enticed to give his country one more World Cup. Reflect on his pedigree and not of any resentment based on career choices.

Steyn and Fourie influence big matches. They are too good not to be considered.

Heyneke, don’t give up on either player just yet.

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images